Christopher Hitchens: RIP

Christopher Hitchens dies after battle with cancer. Click.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Phil_NL says:

    What strikes me is that in one Dutch newspaper, he’s described as a ‘militant humanist’ – which sounds quite a bit more palpable than the much more accurate ‘fanantical atheist’. It’s the second time in a week this paper is trying to blur the lines between humanism and atheism, presumably to get the second to be more acceptable. Did anyone else notice similar tactics?

  2. asperges says:

    I think it is particularly poignant when avowed atheists die, de facto unconsoled and alone. Not only will they find they were in error but who will pray for them? Not all are automatically “bad,” since Faith after all is a gift from God.

    A friend of mine was a somewhat bitter, lapsed Catholic and had insisted on a non-religious funeral. She died suddenly and tragically in a fire – but had Mass offered for her nevertheless to compensate before the “secular” funeral ever took place.

  3. BillyHW says:

    Oh what I would give to see the look on his (figurative) face now.

  4. DeoAcVeritati says:

    I always called Hitchens “The Man Who Was Wrong About Absolutely Everything” and I think it was a pretty apt title. He also reminded me that the caliber of the Church’s enemies had really gone downhill of late. May God have mercy.

  5. mvhcpa says:

    One can only hope that Hitchens saw the truth (and The Truth) before he passed. Contemplating the fate of an unsaved soul is more than I can handle.

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may Your perpetual light shine on him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through Your great mercy, rest in peace.

    Michael Val

    (who truly wishes and prays that all atheists change their path and fly into the arms of Jesus)

  6. Banjo pickin girl says:

    It’s sad that during his illness he said he wished he could have been suffering for a great cause. If he had been a Christian he could have by offering it for others. But maybe when God heard that He decided to work with it anyway.

  7. CarpeNoctem says:

    I would not want to be interpreted as one who discounts the revealed means of salvation through the visible Church and the necessity of responding positively to that grace within the world. That’s certainly not the intent. Moreover, folks should do everything in their power to make sure their kids don’t grow up to be Christopher Hitchens, but I do find this line interesting…

    “He maintained his devout atheism after being diagnosed with cancer, telling one interviewer: “No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises.

    The first sentence is bold blustering of the atheist ego, the cogito, the arrogance of subjectivism. The second sentence, which is rarely heard in such close relation to the first, is a concession to the possiblity of something more than this world can behold.

    Now I haven’t wasted my time to figure out what this joker had to say within this life–reading the BBC obit, I am rather confirmed in my prior impression that he was simply a contrarian who stood for nothing–a rather cowardly position in my estimation. As for me, there are too many good books out there which I still haven’t read that I need to get to first before dealing with his work.

    So maybe this is not an authentic way to interpret his life’s work, but I do wonder if there is something in that concession, that looking for a surprise, that might have given God, in his plenary, extra-sacramental, and glorious mercy something to work with and something with which we might, on this side, have hope for his salvation. In all things may God be glorified. May the crown of his glory be even the possiblity of turning folks like this and poor sinners like me in to the jewels of his crown.

  8. lkapell says:

    I disagree with DeoAcVeritati – Hitchens was not wrong about everything. Outside of the sphere of religion, I think he was in some ways a wise man. He followed a trajectory similar to that of George Orwell, who started as a left-wing revolutionary, and then came to realize that all revolutions end up becoming more wicked than the regimes they seek to overthrow. Someone said of Hitchens (it might have been himself), and I don’t recall the exact words, but something to the effect that he went from being a revolutionary to being just another voter.

    He remained in some respects a man of the Left all his life, but he had the intellectual integrity to part ways with the ideology of the Left in some respects, particularly the inane doctrine of multi-culturalism and the refusal to see the danger of radical Islam.

    I believe it was Christopher’s brother Peter Hitchens (a Christian) who said that Christopher genuinely hated bullies and bullying in all forms; and that his atheism was founded on the perception that God was a bully because He demanded absolute obedience – something to that effect.

    Let us pray for his soul.

  9. Now he knows… may the mercy of God rescue his soul, and may Mother Teresa welcome him into everlasting life.

    All his brilliance, his wit, his knowledge, he now knows is as straw.

  10. LisaP. says:

    When I read the headline I immediately opened a new tab to come here.

    I don’t pray well, like many of my friends, it’s a struggle to pull myself to it almost every time. But the death of someone like Hitchens makes it spontaneous for me. God rest his soul.

  11. Gregory DiPippo says:

    lkapell, Hitchens was right about some things, but in no way can he be described as “wise”; he was simply lucky enough to live past the revolutionary era of the 1960’s. Had the revolution of that age succeeded as completely as he once wanted it too, it would have thrown him up against a wall and shot him immediately. A certain degree is disillusionment is inevitable, not wise, but he was a careless and dishonest writer, filled with hatred and bile, as this writer has very correctly pointed out.

  12. rfox2 says:

    What else could Christopher be other than a humanist? He seems to have been an exemplary humanist: everything he had to hope for was reduced to an act, sentiment or thought of human beings because for him, there was nothing else. I know I’m exposing myself to some lambasting when I say that “Christian humanism” is an oxymoron, since it’s so popular these days to bandy the phrase about…but to Christopher’s credit, given his lack of faith, he was a superlative humanist, so conflating “atheism” and “humanism” together sounds appropriate to me.

    I’m glad to see that God was tugging at his heart, though, before he died. He wanted to do and be more in his life, but as others have said, it is tragic that he could not see how redemptive his own suffering would have been, had he joined it to Christ’s suffering. I pray that God will have mercy on his soul, and my hope is that he did make an act of contrition before he died, availing himself of God’s infinite mercy.

  13. DeoAcVeritati says:

    Sorry– I take that back. He was right about the Elgin Marbles.

    I prayed for him regularly and will continue to do so, but ironically my biggest frustration with him was that he WAS a bully.

  14. dep says:

    Alas. I did not know the man, but he was the good friend of several friends of mine, all devout Catholics. And yes, he was wise in many worldly things. Yet there was always something missing, and we know what that something was. For some time now I have prayed that in that final moment, if not before, he would see Truth in all its fullness and embrace it. I pray that still. I pray, further, that he suffered not from atheism at the end but rather from that more common condition of once having embraced a position, he did not quite know how to back away from it. I believe that that one is called “pride.”

  15. pledbet424 says:

    If there is one consolation for being famous, it is that many people pray for you after your death. I will say a chaplet for him today, and I hope God is most merciful to him.

  16. Ellen says:

    I’ve prayed for Hitch for some time now and will continue to do so. I can’t help but hope that in his last seconds, he realized that God loved him.

  17. jfm says:

    He was a wise man and a fine writer.
    As a provocateur, he challenged many people to think more deeply about their faith.
    I do not doubt his words (unintentionally) drew many closer to God.
    I also do not presume to know the ways God chooses to grant His mercy.

  18. Thom says:

    Let us pray for the soul of Christopher Hitchens.

    God have mercy.

  19. irishgirl says:

    I’m with BillyHW-what I wouldn’t give to see the look on his face now.
    I heard of Mr. Hitchen’s death overnight on the BBC World News Service.
    I wonder if his brother Peter was at his side when Christopher died….does anyone else see the irony of the meaning of his name? ‘Christopher: Christ-Bearer’?

  20. irishgirl says:

    Oops-did it again-‘proofread before posting’:

  21. Jack Hughes says:

    Not a few weeks ago Peter Hitchins when asked on national television asked what made him happy, answered “Faith in God”, a pity that Peter should live up to his biblical namesake when Christopher clearly failed to live up to the meaning of his name. The energy and passion that so animated Chris Hitchings could have been put to so much use in the propogation of the Gospel, a shame then that he put his pen to blasphomy.

    I will spare a Hail Mary for Christ and would ask if others could pray for me as I’m being tempted with the same worldview that claimed him.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    May he rest in peace. Cancer is a terrible disease, no matter who has it.

  23. asperges says: I think it is particularly poignant when avowed atheists die, de facto unconsoled and alone. Not only will they find they were in error but who will pray for them?

    Hitchens did in fact have an awful lot of people praying for him.

    Whenever I considered his atheistic cholera, I couldn’t help suspecting that Hitchens was a lot closer to God than many who were much nicer yet completely indifferent to God. It is, after all, the lukewarm that Christ will vomit out of His mouth.

  24. Sid says:

    Folks, google “Youtube”, “Christopher Hitchens”, and “abortion”. Then watch. This is the Christopher Hitchens whom I’d prefer to remember today. And I am surprised that no writebacker has mentioned this yet. On the most important moral issue of our day, he was with us.

    I also think it unseemly for a gentleman to bash right away the recently departed. Decency demands that we at least wait until the flowers have wilted on his tomb.

  25. “While [Christianity] is local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight. While it is deliberately broadened to embrace every aspect of truth, it is still stiffly embattled against every mode of error. It gets every kind of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its knowledge of the things that are fought for and against with every art of curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven.” –G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

    Elsewhere, I have seen people denounce Hitchens for his bitter assault on Mother Teresa. However, Mother Teresa embodied what Chesterton meant by the Church being “a challange and a fight,” and Hitchens was not one to ignore a challenge or a fight. You can be sure that in his hatred for God and religion, there is hope, for God prefers hatred to indifference — which he will vomit out of his mouth. You can also be sure that Mother Teresa is interceding for him now in Heaven, even while her nuns are praying for him here on earth.

    Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P.

  26. Ralph says:

    I need some theology from Rev. Fathers or others in the know:

    Forgive this elementry question, but I am not sure of the answer.

    What is our hope for one who is forcefully atheist? For what and how do we pray? I assume that God grants the free will desire to be apart from him that they so strongly asserted while on Earth. Are they doomed to hell? Is there a chance at repentance or forgiveness in the next life?

    I know we can offer up masses and sufferings for the repose of the poor souls in pergatory – but what of the ones in hell?

    I hope that this isn’t too off topic, but this is the first thing that came to my mind when I read that Mr. Hitchens had passed. I’d like to pray for his soul – but I don’t know if I can/ should/ or what to pray for.

  27. Brad says:

    I think it was in the book about purgatory, Hungry Souls, that I read a description of someone’s vision of Voltaire’s face locked in frozen horror, longing, surprise, rage, regret, all rolled into one, orbiting the beatific vision from very far away, like Pluto so far from the sun. It was chilling. May the Sacred Heart give beautiful mercy and may somehow His justice be satisfied so that the mercy may flow! O Lord, please hear a sinner’s prayer.

  28. pjsandstrom says:

    Christopher Hitchens was an insightful writer on many subjects and he did it with wit. It strikes me as a ‘Godly joke’ that this ‘radical atheist’ would bear the name “Christopher/Christ-bearer”. May he Rest in Peace!

  29. Me says:

    I will pray for him.

  30. I will pray for Hitchens tonight as well. I have good reason to. It’s not because I like how he stood up to that punk celebrity Bill Maher. It’s because of what my son posted on Twitter:

    “Despite some serious disagreements with his politics, I admired Hitchens a great deal. He helped make a disbeliever out of me.”

    That’s right, a young man who, eight years ago, did his high school philosophy presentation defending Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God (because I was also teaching him philosophy on the side), “came out” as an atheist, thanks in part to Christopher Hitchens.


  31. Kathleen10 says:

    I was eager to check USA Today headlines or sub-headlines and see where Christopher Hitchen’s passing was by evening. It was not even mentioned. How soon we are forgotten by our fellow “humanists”.
    I too pray for God’s mercy on his soul. To me it’s all very mysterious and somewhat frightening to consider. The implications of what one says oneself about God is one thing, but when I contemplate a highly regarded person such as himself, considered by many to be “brilliant”, the implications are awesome, awesomely scary, that is. Imagine being morally responsible for the encouragement or creation of atheism in even one person, let alone thousands, or more? Egad! Please Lord, forgive him, and thank you Lord, that you have “revealed these truths to the simple”.

  32. Joanne says:

    “It is, after all, the lukewarm that Christ will vomit out of His mouth.”

    One of my first thoughts, too, Miss Moore.

    Christopher Hitchens: RIP.

  33. Bill Russell says:

    Christopher Hitchens Is Dead. Dammit.. … more

  34. Mundabor says:

    “It is, after all, the lukewarm that Christ will vomit out of His mouth.”

    Yeah? Did Christ say so? Where?
    I’d have though a lukewarm believer is infinitely better than one writing books titled “God is not great?” Or does wit count more than faith, and blasphemy is at a premium over weakness?

    What is this man going to become? The next Princess Diana?

    Make no mistake: if it wasn’t repentance it was hell; or Christianity is a sad joke for the benefit of the witty and full of themselves.


  35. AnAmericanMother says:


    Revelation 3:16.

  36. Banjo pickin girl says:

    mundabor, it is Christ’s message to the Church in Laodicea.

  37. AnAmericanMother says:


    I’m in a similar situation with one of my children, but not thanks to Hitchens. I think (hope) it is temporary, because I went through a similar period wandering in the wilderness, during college. Some kids just have to declare independence, struggle with figuring it out on their own, and then find themselves right back where they started. Getting married straightened me out.

    Prayers for your son — and prayers (even) for Hitchens. What a hideous situation, to be responsible (even in part) for a child’s falling-away.

  38. Mundabor says:

    So what do you mean, that blasphemers are at a premium over lukewarm?
    And what is this of taking a verse of the bible and putting it over two thousand years of Christianity, a new Protestant fashion?


  39. Banjo pickin girl says:

    That is a foolish accusation that you are making.

  40. Mundabor says:

    what I am saying is that it is foolish to throw away the most elementary Catholi ccommon sense because the one or the other happened to like the man.

    Hitchens fitted the description of an inhabitant of hell to a T. If he doesn’t deserve the honour – bar, of course, an always welcome repentance – , then really hell is a place when Satan plays poker with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, and Christianity is made a mockery of whilst the IMMENSE number of frail, weak Christians – as most of us are – are among the damned.

    Curiously – or not curiously – I hear such strange theories only coming from people of protestantised countries, whilst if you said such things in Italy (or France, or Portugal, you name it) you would be considered in need of some sleep.

    Also funny is the idea that a person who devoted a good part of his life to fighting Christianity might be saved because the one or other liked a phrase he wrote in one of his seventeen books. Truly funny, this, as the man is on his way to becoming the next Lady Diana and I am eagerly awaiting for the Elton John song.

    An enemy of Christ and of the Church, period.

    Unless he repented – you never know, of course; but improbable – you don’t need to kid yourselves about where he is now.

    Christianity 1-0-1, really, and please do not kid ourselves.

    Hell is a concrete reality, not the magical realm of Hitler and Stalin, and in order to go there we need, alas, far less than he did – and no repentance, of course -.


  41. Bruce says:

    “We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man. the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first tune, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.” C.S. Lewis

    “In the last chapter I had to touch on the subject of prayer, and while that is still fresh in your mind and my own, I should like to deal with a difficulty that some people find about the whole idea of prayer. A man put it to me by saying ‘I can believe in God all right, but what I cannot swallow is the idea of Him attending to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.’ And I have found that quite a lot of people feel this.
    Now, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words at the same moment. Most of us can imagine God attending to any number of applicants if only they came one by one and He had an endless time to do it in. So what is really at the back of this difficulty is the idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.
    Well that is of course what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what Time is like. And of course you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series—this arrangement of past, present and future—is not simply the way life comes to us but the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.
    Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten- thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the world—is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.” C. S Lewis

  42. Bruce says:


    “The reason, then, which prevents the Church from now praying for the wicked angels, whom she knows to be her enemies, is the identical reason which shall prevent her, however perfected in holiness, from praying at the last judgment for those men who are to be punished in eternal fire. At present she prays for her enemies among men, because they have yet opportunity for fruitful repentance. For what does she especially beg for them but that “God would grant them repentance,” as the apostle says, “that they may return to soberness out of the snare of the devil, by whom they are held captive according to his will?” But if the Church were certified who those are, who, though they are still abiding in this life, are yet predestinated to go with the devil into eternal fire, then for them she could no more pray than for him. But since she has this certainty regarding no man, she prays for all her enemies who yet live in this world; and yet she is not heard in behalf of all. But she is heard in the case of those only who, though they oppose the Church, are yet predestinated to become her sons through her intercession. But if any retain an impenitent heart until death, and are not converted from enemies into sons, does the Church continue to pray for them, for the spirits, i.e., of such persons deceased? And why does she cease to pray for them, unless because the man who was not translated into Christ’s kingdom while he was in the body, is now judged to be of Satan’s following?

    It is then, I say, the same reason which prevents the Church at any time from praying for the wicked angels, which prevents her from praying hereafter for those men who are to be punished in eternal fire; and this also is the reason why, though she prays even for the wicked so long as they live, she yet does not even in this world pray for the unbelieving and godless who are dead. For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. As also, after the resurrection, there will be some of the dead to whom, after they have endured the pains proper to the spirits of the dead, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, “They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come.” But when the Judge of quick and dead has said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” and to those on the other side, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels,” and “These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,” it were excessively presumptuous to say that the punishment of any of those whom God has said shall go away into eternal punishment shall not be eternal, and so bring either despair or doubt upon the corresponding promise of life eternal.
    St. Augustine

  43. Mundabor says:

    Beautifully quoted, Bruce, and truly Catholic.

    I personally wouldn’t even say that one shouldn’t pray for Hitchens. He should if he has some reason to believe, or to hope, **that he might have repented and reached perfect contrition in the end**, and the infinite mercy of Christ might have reached even him.

    What I think flies in the face of Christianity is this idea that a person completely on the side of Satan in his public statements (he might have been god to his dog, of course, and a loving father) might escape hell because he has said at some point in one of his endless blasphemous rants that “he likes surprises”, or the like.

    This means reducing Christianity to a soppy merry-go-round denying the reality and consequences of a frontal war with God *in the absence of repentance and perfect contrition*.

    I was once told about the Four Last Things. Have they been abolished in case one was a pleasant conversationalist?

    My last post on the matter, and apologies if my tones appear too strong (but in the end those who liked Hitchens shouldn’t have a problem with that, at all).

    Whenever people like Hitchens die, I am concerned of how many souls could be lost by believing that one can be a Hitchens until the end, not repent, and save one’s soul.



  44. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for posting this, Father Z. I prayed all day yesterday for him, did indulgence and will have a Mass said for him on Monday. I have followed his career and that of his brother, who is as conservative as the departed was liberal. May he rest in peace and may the Dear Lord and His Gracious Mother have mercy on Christopher and all of us, at the hour of our deaths, Amen. There is always hope, based on the Mercy shown to us on Calvary.

  45. Mariana says:


    Prayers offered for your son.

  46. TomD says:

    Christopher Hitchens was an exceedingly complicated and intelligent man. I always thought of him as a contrarian’s contrarian . . . driven, to a fault, by his insight and intelligence, to take contrary positions to the current status quo in deed and thought. His seemingly odd combination of moroseness and inner anger colored his view of the world. His positions on radical Islamism and the War in Iraq, ones I always found quite compelling, put him directly at odds with his earlier left-of-center views. But that is what contrarians do.

    He will be missed . . . rest in peace.

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